A Letter from the Editors

The Editors

DRAMATIC EVENTS in several countries of the capitalist periphery serve to highlight aspects of the international crisis and the United States’ relationship to struggles for democracy. The twenty-year rule of Philippine dictator Ferdinand Marcos collapsed in the face of a mass mobilization and a carefully planned revolt by sections of the military apparatus. Student and community rebellions in Haiti triggered the events which saw President-for-life “Baby Doc” Duvalier plucked into exile on a United States air force jet.

Both Haiti and the Philippines now stand at the threshold of major political and social struggles which will shape the new order to replace the rotting dictatorships. The course of these struggles-above all, the degree to which their path is influenced by mass popular movements and the radical left-will be intensely scrutinized in coming months. The always astute Business Week, reporting on the eve of Marcos’ flight from power, noted that the major immediate worry of multinational and Philippine capital was not the armed rural insurgency but the emergence of a militant labor movement which has already waged protracted strikes against Nestles and other multinational exploiters.

While the potential for revolutionary developments released by the overthrow of these client dictatorships remains to be tested, the Reagan administration is viewing at least the first phases of the revolt with satisfaction. James Petras, writing in this issue of Against the Current, helps explain this apparent paradox.

Far from being tactically hide-bound or blinded by extreme right-wing ideology, the Reagan administration, as Petras shows, proved to be quite nimble when the usefulness of its loyal dictators in Manila and Port-au-Prince was exhausted. Concerned in principle with neither democracy nor the personal rule of this or that murderous tyrant, U.S. policy focuses on constraining social change-that is, making sure the exploited and powerless stay that way-and preserving the infrastructure of counterinsurgency. Indeed, the potential for building a streamlined “national security state” in the Philippines under the aegis of a new regime with genuine popularity must strike Reagan & Co. as the fulfillment of a dream, unless of course the movement for democracy assumes a form they cannot control.

Petras places the U.S. role in the toppling of Marcos and Duvalier, and the formation of the regimes that succeeded them, in the more general context of American tactics and strategy in Central America, Asia and Africa. He goes on to argue that the New Cold War and the politics of the Summit need to be understood primarily in terms of U.S. objectives in the Third World.

As this issue goes to press, Congressional action is pending on Reagan’s demand for $100 million to officially finance contra terrorism against Nicaragua. At the same time, as shown by the account in this issue, unofficial mercenary recruiting on the contras’ behalf takes place openly in the U.S.

For American capitalism, maintaining domination of the Third World is not a matter of choice but necessity. As Robert Brenner argues in the first of a two-part article, the decline in the competitiveness of industrial production in the U.S. is deeply rooted in a pattern of uneven development which gave its rivals both short-and long-term advantages. To compensate for its decreasing ability to compete in manufacturing, even in areas of high technology, U.S. capital requires unrestricted access to investment markets and outlets for loans to the Third World, especially in manufacturing-creating a debt burden that reinforces poverty, creates conditions for upheaval and thus of course increases the need for intervention and counterinsurgency.

The U.S. relative decline, in the context of international crisis, conditions the employers’ assaults on the rights and conditions of workers at home. In this issue we highlight several dramatic instances of workers’ resistance to these assaults–the long strike of the Watsonville canneries, the struggle of Local P-9 against Hormel wage-gouging in Austin, Minnesota, a successful strike of teachers with parent support in Oakland-as well as a case history of a successful unionization drive at Columbia University.

In South Africa, the historic traditions of non-racialism and African nationalism have long competed for hegemony within the freedom struggle. Today, a third perspective, rooted in non-racialist conceptions but pointing toward independent working-class organization and leadership of the struggle, is emerging from the Black trade union movement. Sandy Boyer and Dianne Feeley sketch the conditions that have led to the new federation COSATU, the strategic problems it confronts and its potential impact on the overall struggle to bring down the monster of apartheid. Christy Brown, reviewing the film Out of Africa and Isak Dinesen’s book of the same name, juxtaposes the “colonial pastoral” romanticized in these works with the historic realities of colonial land seizures, privilege and exploitation.

March-April 1986, ATC 2

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